Why Old-School Marketing Still Dominates

Viral campaigns, podcasts, and other new ad strategies are all the rage. So why do video-game marketers still love TV, retail, and print?

There's no doubt that the internet has benefited marketers enormously. It's a communication tool without equal, offering potentially low-cost avenues directly to target audiences. For creative, adventurous marketers, it offers opportunities to excel not readily available via traditional means.

So it's become fashionable to step the golden streets of online media. And there's no doubt that online advertising and 'viral' or guerrilla marketing is taking up more of the marketing professional's time and budget. Online advertising spend grew by an incredible 76% in 2006, and is becoming in important platform in any game campaign. 68% of the U.S population use the Internet and, you have to assume that figure is closer to 100% of gaming's target audience. But while we at Next-Gen are happy with this trend, we can't pretend it's the whole story.TV is Still Here The vast majority of videogame marketing is still spent on traditional platforms such as retail promotion, broadcast or print. For PR, magazine front covers and appearances in the traditional press are still considered higher up the scale than digital inches. According to Forrester Research, the average U.S family spends about 38% of its media time with TV, and TV makes up about 35% of ad spending across relevant media. Consumers spend about 33% of their time with the Internet, and yet the web makes up about 5% of ad spending. So while the web is making massive inroads into consumer time, it's taking a lot longer for marketers to catch up. The reasons could be a simple matter of time-lag, or nervousness about a new technology, or a lack of understanding about how to make it work. Or there may be more solid reasons. Ultimately, marketers must go with what they are sure will work, and the metrics for traditional media are still more convincing than those for online media.

Old School Stigma Tony Key, Ubisoft's head of marketing says, "As marketers, we’re all terrified of being labeled 'old school,' so we’re always trying to sound like we’ve moved on to the next big strategy, and leaving the old ways behind. "I get a kick out of hearing marketing execs from a large publishers, notorious for over-abundant spending on television and mainstream consumer print advertising, spewing about how TV and print advertising don’t work anymore." It's interesting to look at Forrester's graph on ad spending against time spent with a media. All categories are fairly much in line except the internet and newspapers, one of which is grossly in favor of spending, the other in favor of time. It's interesting that newspapers are the oldest media, while the internet is the newest. The fact is that old media didn't stop working when the internet came along, any more that print stopped working when TV arrived.Paying Bills If you look carefully at the time spent by consumers online, 62% are using it to research products and about 50% are using it to read news content, both of which will be of interest to the marketer. But there are dozens of other uses such as email, paying bills, listening to audio, online chat etc which, while by no means off-bounds for marketers, are much tougher to break into. We hear a lot about how consumer time is being fragmented among media types, but even within the online environment, the consumer's activities are myriad and hard to track. That does not even begin to factor in the extraordinary number of options available within known online fields such as search engines and gaming content sites. Successful viral campaigns are often held up as evidence of the central role of new media, but it's interesting how few of them have actually made a mark. Microsoft's I Love Bees is usually the totem, but that was way back in 2004.

Resident Evil 4 managed a good campaign last year with its Infection campaign, but that was probably more of a success through the PR it generated than through the number of people who played. Creating a viral campaign may be comparatively cheap, but it's also devilish difficult. The internet is a tough place to get eye-balls when you're trying to do it for free. Paid-for advertising, even bad advertising, has the advantage of guaranteed eye-balls.

Hate Advertising The rise of online media has coincided with the idea that consumers hate advertising, or are too sophisticated to bear the idea that they are being sold to. But, as one of our writers noted last week, there comes a point when the vogue for online 'anti-advertising' becomes dishonest. Fact is, people are happy to be sold to, if they are interested in the product. The idea that consumers are too savvy to be sold to has become mantra, even though the evidence is fairly thin. Consumers are proven to hate repeat advertising - thus the success of PVRs - but that is not the same as being against the idea of salesmanship per se. If a product or service interests consumers, they will listen to the message. Whether they will still find it interesting on the 15th viewing is a separate matter. Key says, "It seems that every interview with game industry marketing execs I read lately has some guy trying to sound up to speed on what works and does not work in marketing nowadays.  They think it makes them sound smarter and hipper to talk about all the 1:1, viral, sell without selling stuff. This was beat to death at the recent and very well done MI6 conference in San Francisco. The irony is, very few of them actually walk the walk."

Integrated Marketing

No-one, certainly not Key, is arguing that online or viral or mobile or guerrilla marketing is a waste of time and energy. The argument is simply that the public emphasis put on cool marketing is way out of proportion with its actual power in the real world. Campaigns today are about integrated marketing, which usually means allocating massive chunks of the budget to tried and tested routes, with an increasing emphasis on regular online advertising, while seeding a large number of associated efforts in other areas, some of which might actually amount to something that justifies the entire effort. Key says, "It’s not about 1:1, or podcasts, or mobile GPS, or any other tactic that everyone wants to talk about, but never actually use. These tactics can help, but in the end, they’re still just tactics. "The real answer to good marketing in current society is the same one it was five years ago, or maybe longer, before all these buzz worthy but largely ineffective tactics game along. It’s about creating well-positioned products that the market wants, and then making sure people understand clearly what that product is and can do for them. "Marketing a product like that can be done in many ways, but in the end, a solid campaign most likely consists of a combination of some cool new tactics and strategies, as well as some of those traditional strategies that everyone says 'don’t work' anymore. Cutting through the clutter is tough, but the best way to do that is by making the right product, with everything else, including innovative marketing strategies, coming in at a very distant second place. In other words, your product should be your number one marketing strategy, not a podcast."